Rondo shines in Celtics loss

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Rondo shines in Celtics loss

NEW YORK Whether it was the result of not having Paul Pierce (right heel), or motivation from the trade rumors involving Chris Paul, Rajon Rondo looked like a different kind of player for the Boston Celtics on Sunday.

Fans are used to Rondo run the game well. But hitting jump shots? And free throws?

Where did that come from?

Rondo's play was one of the highlights in an otherwise disappointing start to the season for Boston, as the team dropped its season opener 106-104 to the New York Knicks.

"He attacked early. He set the tone, got into the paint and softened up their defense," said Allen. "That's a great sign for us."

Carmelo Anthony's late-game heroics aside, for most of Sunday's game Rondo was the best player on the floor.

And unlike the Rondo we've come to know, he didn't rely primarily on his ball distribution skills either.

He had a team-high 31 points on 11-for-19 shooting.

Of his 11 made field goals, three of them were jumpers from 17 feet or further.

A 57 percent free throw shooter, Rondo also showed a greater willingness to get into the paint and draw contact.

In addition to knocking down 11 of his 19 shots from the field, Rondo also connected on 9 of 12 free throws.

To put that in perspective, the most free-throw attempts that Rondo recorded last season was 11 (he made 5) against the Knicks on April 24.

"I'm going to try and get to the line a lot more," said Rondo, who also had 13 assists and five steals. "Some calls went my way early on. I just have to stay aggressive."

Coach Doc Rivers isn't into moral victories, but he couldn't deny the impact Rondo had on the game -- and how that impact is a positive for the Celtics moving forward.

"We want him to be aggressive," Rivers said. "The best part of the game for us was that, I thought Rondo attacked the basket. This is the Rondo we want. This is what we talked about last year, getting to the free-throw line, taking the shots when they're open. I thought he was the aggressor in the game."

And with Pierce out indefinitely, the Celtics will need more of the same with the Miami Heat up next.

But don't think for a minute that Rondo is all of a sudden going to morph into a scoring point guard.

"It's just one game," he said. "Obviously, when Pierce gets back, some of the shots will go to P. But whatever the team needs me to do; if it's being aggressive or being a pass-first point guard like I am . . . Whatever the team needs, whatever Doc wants me to do."

It's clear that Rondo has the right mental approach to this season.

But what remains vague is whether the trade talk involving him this summer, is at the root of what appears to be a different Rondo.

"I tried to have a better focus, each game," he said. "It may not be me scoring every night like I scored tonight; just try to do the intangibles out there on the floor, whether it's loose balls, diving on the floor, getting my hands on deflections, whatever the team needs me to do."

Celtics force overtime, come up short in 127-123 loss to Blazers

Celtics force overtime, come up short in 127-123 loss to Blazers

BOSTON – For the second time in as many games, the Boston Celtics ran into a team that played with a greater sense of desperation.

And the result was yet another defeat as the Portland Trail Blazers, playing their second game in less than 24 hours, were able to get off their losing skid with a 127-123 overtime win over the Celtics.

Boston (26-17) has now lost back-to-back games at home, while the Blazers (19-27) snapped a four-game losing streak.

In the extra session, Portland jumped out to a 117-113 lead only for Boston’s Al Horford scoring on a bank-shot in the paint and Thomas draining a go-ahead 3-pointer for Boston.

Portland regained the lead when Al-Farouq Aminu made a pair of free throws with 59.3 seconds to play to make it a 119-118 game.

Boston soon fell behind 122-118, but a pair of Thomas free throws with 44.8 seconds to play made it a two-point game.

Mason Plumlee scored with 24 seconds to play in overtime, and an Al Horford miss – rebounded by Plumlee who was then fouled by Horford – essentially put the game away with 13.5 seconds to play.

Boston found themselves down late in the fourth quarter and seemingly headed towards defeat, only to get an unexpected lift in the final seconds from Terry Rozier.

Trailing by three points late in the fourth, Boston had one last chance to force overtime so who did they turn to?

If you were thinking Thomas which is what the Blazers and most fans were thinking, you would have been dead wrong.

The fourth quarter may be Thomas’ time to shine, but at that point in the game it was Rozier’s moment as he drained a 3-pointer with 8.4 seconds left that ultimately forced overtime. He finished with 15 points, three rebounds and three assists off the bench.

The Blazers came into the game with the kind of potent scoring punch in the backcourt that strikes the fear into the heart of any defense, let alone one that has been as up and down as the Boston Celtics this season.

For most of the game, Portland’s 1-2 punch of Damian Lillard (28 points) and C.J. McCollum (35 points) lived up to the lofty billing as they combined for 63 points.

McCollum and Lillard both did their share of damage down the stretch, but it was their bench – specifically Meyers Leonard – whose play kept Portland in the game early on.

He finished with 17 points off the bench.

Boston led 65-56 at the half, but soon found itself in a 67-all game after McCollum made the second of two free throws.

But Boston countered with a put-back basket by Kelly Olynyk and a 3-pointer from Isaiah Thomas to push Boston’s lead to 72-67.

Once again the Blazers fought back and eventually took the lead 74-72 on a powerful put-back dunk by Haverill (Mass.) native Noah Vonleh.

Brad Stevens had seen enough of his team getting pushed around, as he called a time-out with 5:31 to play in the quarter.

It didn’t help as Portland continued to bully their way around the rim for second and third-shot opportunities with their lead peaking at 78-72 following a put-back basket by  Plumlee.

But the Celtics responded with a 7-2 spurt capped off by an end-to-end, driving lay-up by Rozier that cut Portland’s lead to 80-79 with 2:44 to play in the quarter. Boston continued to be within striking distance as the third quarter ended with the Celtics trailing 88-86.